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January 29, 2023
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Problem Gamblers in India: A Rising Epidemic of Online Casino Gambling Addiction In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

Online Casino Gambling in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
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Last Updated: 13-02-203
Published by: Deepak Rajula

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Gambling: The human mind is a fragile system prone to many deviations, addiction at a very young age is the most lucrative one of those deviations that online casinos and betting sites are banking on to trap and create gamblers. A young gambler trapped by these online casinos and betting sites in his early 20s is bound to become the milking cow for the next 10 years, allowing the gambling companies to siphon off millions of rupees from him/her.

Like many addictions, gambling addiction is a slippery slope of chasing instant gratification and the illusion of guaranteed success, only to be discovered in retrospect that one never stands a chance with the odds stacked against them in the long run. While the government of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are proactively pursuing the cause of a drug-free society and empowering the agencies with resources to fight the drug menace and addiction, it seems that both the state governments have conveniently turned blind eye to the growing problem of Online Casino Gambling addiction. But the fact is that the economy and scope of Gambling addiction are bigger than most dangerous addictions like cocaine, cannabis, and other controlled substances. In fact, the brain chemistry that makes someone get addicted to gambling is more potent than any of the above-mentioned addictions.

Online Gambling in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
Online Gambling in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is on the rise in 2022 and 2023

Problem Gamblers in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

The generic definition of a problem gambler: A problem gambler is someone who has become self-destructive in nature and engages in unchecked gambling activities that are destructive and damaging not only to themselves but their families and friends. They are often indebted to multiple banks with multiple loans. Every thought and activity of their day-to-day life is centered around gambling, to the point where they become isolated and get lost in their addiction. Most of them lose touch with reality and live in an illusion of losses recovery, leading to failed relationships and eventual depression.

The root cause of the rising epidemic of online casino gambling addiction in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

The story of Harsha Vardhan Reddy from the state of Andhra Pradesh threw some light on the systemic problem of gambling and the forces than enable them. Harsha is a young kid who is in his late adolescent years, after being targeted by betting companies he ended up losing over 95 lakhs in Indian rupees. His parents are in agriculture and live a very mundane lower middles class life. When the government took their lands for development-related work, they were compensated with a little over 1 crore rupees for their land under land acquisition and fair compensation rules. Little did they know that their adolescent son would end up losing all their money in 2 months of time through online casino gambling.

Passive Government Agencies Turning Blind Eye

Online Gambling is illegal in both states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. There is no grey area, it is simply illegal to run/operate/engage in online gambling in the two Telugu states. It is for this very reason that fantasy gaming apps like Dream 11 are banned from operating in these two states. Even though the supreme court of India ruled that fantasy sports are a game of skill making it legal in many Indian states, these fantasy games are banned in the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. However, the government’s implementation of restrictions against gambling sites stops with fantasy gaming apps. Gambling is a state subject and the states have full control over the legality and overview of online gambling sites with the center having little to no say in this matter. But somehow, both the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are allowing the operations of all major online casino gambling sites with some fantasy sports apps being the exception. Anyone can access the top international gambling sites like Bet365, Betway, Parimacth, Daffa, etc, and start gambling in less than an hour.

Unchecked Payments to Gambling Sites Using Net Banking and UPI Network

It is easier to pay using UPI and Net Banking on these gambling sites than actually paying for online merchandise or other shopping activities. Problem gamblers can instantly pay using the above-mentioned payment systems or use any wallet like MobiKwik, AstroPay, JioMoney, Ola Money, and the list goes on.

Some banks like HDFC have put restrictions on using their debit/credit cards on online gambling sites, most of the banks voluntarily allow users to deposit money using any of their services instantly, including the PSUs like State Bank of India which allows deposit through Net Banking in websites like Bet365. In the above-mentioned case of Harsha, who had lost 95 lakhs in 2 months, most of the deposits were done though UPI apps like PhonePe.

The Lure of the offers- Bonuses, Rebates, Free Bets

All gamblers at some point realise that they are knocking on the point of no return, most of them give up once they have hit that bottom. But these online casinos wont let them be, instead they run offers and exclusive deals that lure these gamblers back to their sites. All they need is that moment of desperation and weakness from gamblers which make them click on the offers to go for the free bets, within days they are back in it again. Trying to recover money that they have lost recently, only to get sucked in the viscious cycle of deposits and debts again and again.

Bet365, an UK based gambling site that offers diverse casino games, runs offers like weekly rebates and lucky draws that are carefully designed to encourage players more and more. A patron of their site keep checking for these offers making them to visit their site again and again. Along with the such lure of rebates, these sites also offer free bets, bonuses on high volume deposits, etc.

Namesake Responsible Gambling Policies

Most of these casino websites display some king of responsible gambling notifications and content on their website. But as mentioned, they are there just for the namesake. Just in case if someone tries to approach courts or regulatory agencies, they quote these responsible gambling practices on their websites. None of these policies are actually intended to prevent young gamblers from loosing money that doesn’t belong to them. Even the top companies like Bet365 or Betway don’t really check the income proof of their patrons and put a ceiling on daily bet limits. They allow and encourage patrons to deposit frequently and suck the money easily sometimes in a span of seconds to minutes.

The Question of Manipulation/Rigged Games

Most of the casino companies rely on high end algorithms and data to tune their wheels. In essence, they make sure that they never loose and even if someone wins for a short period they are likely to loose again. There are some allegations by patrons of some of these websites that slots/casino games like roulette are rigged to ultimately take money from everyone. A meager 2-3% of the total gamblers on their website who deal in high volumes remain financial intact without debts, the rest are all losers.

The callous customer support teams are trained to not give a damn about the complaints while putting a polite face up front. There are thousands of complaints on online consumer forums about pending withdrawals, deposits, arbitrary actions, etc. Particularly for gamblers from states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh where the gambling is illegal, there is no legal remedy to raise their grievances. Instead they are forced to suffer whatever injustice that is being ensued upon them. The gambling sites are aware of this situation and they take full advantage of it.

Targeted Ad Campaigns

Google has a guilty role to play in this rising epidemic of Online Gambling addiction in Indian states along with many other ad network platforms that allow these websites to run targetted ad campaigns.

As per the iGB Marketing Monitor report, the online gambling site Bet365 spends close to half a billion(423 million) on marketing campaigns. As per a recent Gaurdian report, Betway another major UK based gambling site was fined 400,000 Euros for running gmabling related ads on Childrens website.

In December 2022, Indian had officially warned the internet major Google to stop running ads for gambling sites like 1XBet, Betway and Bet365, quoting that gambling related ads are banned in India and would face penalties for floating such serious laws.

ASCI- Advertising Standars Coucil of India’s take on the matter

ASCI, a regulatory watchdog of Ad content and policies in India has recently reported that most of gambling related ad violations in India are on digital platforms. Which is true to an extent, but on contrary we have seen a huge increase in proxy ads and official sports sponsorships by these major gambling sites. Instead of using the direct name, they run ads for their subsidiaries that offer sports statistics and scores. MPL a major fantasy sports gambling app is also the official sponsor of Indian Cricket team and has Virat Kohli and many bollywood celebrities as their brand ambassadors. MS Dhoni is the face of another fantasy gaming app Dream 11.

ASCI also reported that most of the gambling related advertisement violations occured on TVs during the IPL 2022 Season where a total 35+ gambling related ads were broadcasted on Television during the match breaks. This doesn’t include the sponsors and other display ads on the field during the IPL matches, same thing is done during the Vivo Pro Kabaddi 2022 season, where Parimatch, 1XBet, Daffa, Betway spent huge money on display advertisements in the stadium. The objective of all these ads is create a sense of legitablity to these gambling companies and prodiving confidence for potential gamblers to register on their websites.

Online Casino Gambling in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
Online Casino Gambling in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh is on the rise in 2022 and 2023

Way Ahead To Deal with the Gambling Companies

The unchecked practices of these Gambling means lakhs of Indians are being pushed into debt cycles and damaging careers, families. There have been reported cases of gamblers committing sucide after loosing the money they don’t have, one such case is of Rama Krishna from Warangal, Telangana. A lekskart employee, Rama Krishna had lost over 6+ lakhs of rupeers on an online gambling website, unable to internalise and handle the pressure of growing debts, Rama Krishna had committed sucide after recording a video for his parents where he explained how online gambling addiction has ruined his life and led to him committing sucide.

COVID and lockdown only escalated something that is already happening, more work from home allows more time for gambling, unchecked ad campaigns lead to innocent people who have never gambled in their life to lose their fortunes for the sin of click on a link that offered free bets.

Most effective way to control this growing epidemic of Online gambling is to put a blanket ban on all these gambling website to operate in the country. But implementing this has its own challenges, first thing being the inability of our cyber agencies to block these websites as most of their serves are located in territories of othe countries where India weilds no influence on the matter, second being the economic aspect of it and lobbying of top brace that is involved in the policy making. So the best alternatives seems to be regulating than a straight out ban, like SEBI does it for Stock markets, we need a regulatory agency that strictly enforces gambling related laws and policies. A parliamentary committe, like Australia did a while back to handle the gambling addiction, that investigates into the matter and recommends a frame work for regulation. Something as small as enforcing strict daily bet limits can make all the difference for problem gamblers whose life is being destroyed everyday one bet at each time. WIN IT ALL, is a movie concept but in real life you most probably end up being a LOSE IT ALL, so be aware consumer.

IF YOU ARE SOMEONE GOING THROUGH GAMBLING ADDICTION IN INDIA, PLEASE REACH OUT THE HELP CENTERS MENTIONED IN THIS LIST: Gambling Addiction Help Lines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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